If you are working with an established pattern (Vogue, Burda etc), you need to look at which fabrics are recommended on the back of the envelope. Since these patterns have already been tried and tested by people in the know, it is a good idea to follow the designer’s suggestions.
When looking at the picture on your envelope, make sure you take into consideration the profile of the garment – this means checking out the drape: does the fabric stand away from the body or is it snug? Is it a tailored outfit or is it loose and flowing? Are there lots of details?
When you are at the fabric shop it is important to unroll a length of the textile you are interested in so that you can judge whether it is suitable for your project.
How does the fabric feel? How does it fall? Will you be able to pleat or gather this fabric if necessary?
Look at the print or design on the fabric – a plain fabric will highlight the design lines of your outfit (think Jil Sander) whereas a patterned or textured fabric is very suitable for simple lines. Observe the fabric’s nap, shading and design (is it one-sided?).
Play around with the fabric. Stretch it – does it spring back? Crush it – does it wrinkle? Fold it and experiment with pleats.
Don’t forget to check out the label on the roll for care, fibre content and finishes.
Make sure you take a very close look at the fabric before you go to the check out desk. Take it to the window and hold it up to the light. Is the colour even? Are there imperfections in the weave? Observe the weave more closely – is it loose or tight? Will it unravel or fray easily? Does your design and grain correspond (if you are buying a printed fabric)?
And most importantly… how do you think the fabric will look on you? Does the colour suit your skin tone? How does the fabric feel on your skin? Will it match your intended wardrobe?
If you are still not entirely sure about your choice, take the pattern with you and ask the shop assistant – they usually know very well what works and what doesn’t!